The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Nuremberg, war crimes, crimes against humanity

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
27th February to 11th March, 1946

Sixty-Ninth Day: Wednesday, 27th February, 1946
(Part 7 of 9)


[Page 23]

Q. Maybe you will be able to relate to the Tribunal the observations you made while officiating in this church?

A. In 1941 and at the beginning of 1942 I was rector of this church and I witnessed certain tragic scenes which I would like to relate to the Tribunal.

A few days after the treacherous attack on the Soviet Union by Hitlerite Germany I witnessed the rapid increase of masses for the dead. The dead were mostly children, women and old people - victims of the treacherous air raids on the city by German airmen-peaceful citizens of our city.

Before the war the number of dead varied from thirty to fifty persons a day, but during the war this number rose quickly to several hundred a day. It was physically impossible to bring the bodies inside the church. Long rows of boxes and coffins with remains of the victims stood outside the church; the horribly mutilated bodies of Leningrad's citizens - victims of barbarous air raids of the German air force. Side by side with the increasing number of funeral masses for the dead brought to the church, there grew the practice of saying requiems in the memory of those whose bodies could not be brought to the church by their relatives or friends, as they lay buried under the ruins and the debris of the houses destroyed by the Germans. Each day the church was surrounded by large number of coffins - a hundred, two hundred coffins, over which the priests used to chant the funeral services. Forgive me - it is difficult for me to speak of all this, for as the Tribunal already knows, I remained during the whole siege, I, myself, was dying of hunger. I saw the terrible air raids by the German air force. I was shell-shocked several times.

In the winter of 1941-42, the situation of besieged Leningrad was particularly terrible. The ceaseless air raids of the Luftwaffe, the shelling of the city by the German artillery, absence of light, water, transportation, canalisation in the city, and finally the acute starvation - as a result of all this, the peaceful citizens suffered privations unique in the history of mankind. They were indeed heroes, who suffered for their country - these innocent peaceful citizens.

Together with all that I have just told you, I could describe other terrible scenes which I witnessed during the period when I was the rector of this cemetery church.

The cemetery was very often bombed by German planes. You can imagine

[Page 24]

the scene when people who have found eternal rest, their coffins, bodies, bones, skulls - all this is uprooted and thrown on the ground, monuments and crosses lie scattered and people who had just suffered the loss of their kin, had to suffer once more seeing the huge craters made by bombs sometimes on the very spot Where they had just buried their relatives or friends, knowing that even the dead had no peace.

Q. Tell us, witness, during the period of hunger, at what rate did the number of burial services at this church increase?

A. I have already told you, that as a result of the terrible conditions imposed by the siege, as a result of the German air raids, as a result of the shelling of the city, the number of burial services reached an unprecedented figure - up to several thousand a day. I would especially like to relate to the Tribunal the facts which I observed on 7th February, 1942. A month earlier, quite exhausted by hunger and the long walk, from my house to the church, I fell ill. Two of my assistant priests replaced me. On 7th February, Remembrance Day, before the beginning of Lent, I came for the first time since my illness to my church. I was absolutely astounded. (N.B. In the Russian Orthodox Church there are several Saturdays a year set aside for the remembrance of the dead; they are called "Parents' Saturdays.") The church was surrounded by piles of bodies, some of which even blocked the entrance. These piles contained from thirty to a hundred bodies. They were not only at the church door, but also around the church. I witnessed people, exhausted from starvation who in their desire to bring the bodies of their relatives to the cemetery, would fall down and die on the spot beside the bodies. Such scenes I witnessed quite frequently.

Q. Describe to us, witness, the damage which was done to the Leningrad churches.

A. Your Honours, as I have already reported to you, my duty as Dean of these churches was to observe from time to time the condition of the churches in the city and to report in detail to the Metropolitan. The following were my personal observations and impressions. The Church of the Resurrection on Gribvedor Canal, which is a very remarkable monument, was very seriously damaged by enemy shelling. The domes and roofs were pierced by shells, numerous frescoes were either damaged or destroyed. The Holy Trinity Church, a historical memorial, ornamented by beautiful friezes commemorating the heroic siege of Izmailovski Fortress, was severely damaged by the systematic shelling and bombing by the Germans. The roof was destroyed. All the sculpture was broken; only a few fragments remained.

Q. Tell us, witness, how many churches were destroyed and how many were severely damaged in Leningrad.

A. The Church of the Serafimov cemetery was completely destroyed by artillery fire, this church was not only hit by the shells, but great damage was caused to it by air-raids. The Luftwaffe caused great damage to numerous churches. I must first of all mention two churches which suffered most from the Leningrad siege. To begin with - the Cathedral of St. Vladimir, where, by the way, I have the honour of officiating at the present time. In 1942 from February until 1st July, I was rector of this Cathedral, and I would like to acquaint you, your Honours, with the following very interesting but terrible incident which occurred on Easter Eve of 1942.

On Easter Saturday, at 5 p.m. Moscow time, the Luftwaffe carried out a mass raid over the city. At five thirty two bombs fell on the south-western part of the Cathedral of St. Vladimir. The faithful were standing in line at that moment, waiting to approach the tomb of our Lord. They wished to fulfil their religious duty. I saw some thirty persons lying wounded near the altar. Other people were lying about in different places in the church. They lay helpless for some time, until we could give them medical aid. It was a scene of utter confusion. People

[Page 25]

who had not been able to enter the church tried to run away and hide in the air-raid shelters, while the others who had entered, huddled in terror against the walls of the church, awaiting death. The concussion of the bomb was so heavy that for some time there was a constant fall of shattered glass, mortar and pieces of structure.

When I came down from a room on the second floor I was quite stunned by the scene before me. People flocked around me, "Father, are you alive? Father, how can we understand this? We heard that the Germans believed in God, that they love Christ, that they will not harm those who believe in God. Where is their faith then, if they can act like this on Easter Eve?" I must add that the air-raid lasted right through the night until Easter morning; this night of love, this night of joy for all Christians, the Resurrection night, was turned by Germans into a night of blood, a night of destruction and a night of suffering for innocent people, Two or three days passed. In the Cathedral of St. Vladimir - it was obvious to me, as rector - and in other churches and cemeteries the tragic results of the Luftwaffe's Easter raid began to become apparent - the dead, women, children and aged. . . .

Q. Tell us, Witness, you also visited the Leningrad region?

A. Yes.

THE PRESIDENT: Colonel Smirnov, if your examination is going on, I think perhaps we had better adjourn now for ten minutes.

(A recess was taken.)

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Nelte, can you let the Tribunal know what your wishes are about General Westhoff and Wieland?

DR. NELTE: In reply to the suggestion by the Court, as to calling the witnesses Westhoff and Wieland, I should like to make the following statement, as a result of a discussion with my colleagues:-

First, we abstain from calling both witnesses at this stage of the proceedings provided that the prosecution also abstains from reading out Exhibits RF 1450 and USSR 413 at this stage of the trial. Second, I shall call General Westhoff as witness later, and I gather, from the Court's suggestion, that this witness has been allowed.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, certainly.

Mr. Roberts, could Sir David attend here in the course of a short time, do you think?

MR. ROBERTS: He is at the Chief Prosecutors' meeting now, but I can get him in a few moments if there is a question which I could not answer on his behalf.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think perhaps it will be best if he were here. It is only a question really as to whether the document should be read.

MR. ROBERTS: Well, I am told the meeting has just ended. I did not quite get what your Lordship said.

THE PRESIDENT: I said that the question was whether the document is to be read by the prosecution. Dr. Nelte, as I understand it, was suggesting that perhaps the prosecution would forgo their right to read the document.

MR. ROBERTS: My Lord, speaking for myself, I feet quite certain that so far as the British Delegation is concerned we should not forgo reading that document. We do put it forward, or our Russian colleagues put it forward, as a very cold-blooded murder of brave men, and we are most anxious that the document should be read.

DR. NELTE: Mr. President, I have not made it a condition that the documents should not be submitted at all, but only at this stage of the proceedings.

[Page 26]

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, but, you see, the prosecution want it read as part of their case. If it is postponed until your case begins, it will not be read as part of the prosecutions case.

DR. NELTE: I think that the prosecution, when cross- examining the witness, could present the documents they want to submit now.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we cannot get Wieland over here tomorrow, and the case of the prosecution, we hope, will close tomorrow, therefore the document must be read tomorrow. We will then get General Westhoff and Wieland over for you at any time that is convenient to you.

DR. NELTE: I think the prosecution have reserved the right to adduce, at any time during the proceedings, other charges and documents. This follows from the Indictment. It therefore seems to me that the prosecution, without prejudice to their case, could postpone the presentation of this charge until I have examined the witnesses.

GENERAL RUDENKO: I would like to add something to what my colleague, Mr. Roberts, has said. The point is that the document presented to the Tribunal was put at our disposal by the British Delegation and was submitted by us in accordance with Article 21 of the Charter. This document being an irrefutable proof can be read into the record or not, in accordance with the decision of the Tribunal of 17th December, 1945.

If the defence as Sir David already stated this morning, intend to oppose this document by summoning witnesses, that is their right. This is what I wanted to add to Mr. Roberts' statement.

MR. ROBERTS: Perhaps your Lordship would allow me to add one thing. The Tribunal has ruled that this document is admissible, and it has been admitted, as I understand, and therefore I would submit that it ought to be read as part of the prosecutions case, or perhaps it might be equally convenient after the discussion on Organisations.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, yes, I see that Sir David has just come into Court.

Sir David, I think the view the Tribunal takes is that it is a matter for the prosecution to decide, when they put in this document and if they wish to put it in now, or, as Mr. Roberts suggested, after the argument on Organisations, they are at liberty to do so. Then these two witnesses can be called at a later stage when the defendants' counsel wish them to be called.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: My Lord, I entirely agree with what I am told Mr. Roberts has put forward. We consider that this document ought to be put in as part of the case for the prosecution. If it will be of any assistance to counsel for the defendants, I shall be glad to take up the question of the time to be fixed, after the Organisations; but the reading of the document certainly should be part of the prosecution's case.

THE PRESIDENT : The document may be read, then, at the end of the prosecution's case.


May I apologise to the Tribunal for being absent. There was other business connected with the trial in which I was engaged.


Wait one moment.

Then, Dr. Nelte, the Tribunal would like you to let us know when you wish those witnesses to be called, so that we can communicate with London in order that the witness Wieland may be brought over here.

[Page 27]

DR. NELTE: As to when exactly during my presentation the witnesses should appear I cannot say, for I cannot say when the stage for the presentation of my witnesses will be reached. I think the Court is in a better position to judge when it will be my turn. In the course of the examination of those witnesses who will be granted to me, I shall also question this witness.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Nelte, you see these witnesses not only affect your client, but they affect the defendant Goering and the defendant Kaltenbrunner, and therefore what the Tribunal wishes is that you, in consultation with Dr. Stahmer and counsel for Kaltenbrunner, should let the Tribunal know what would be the most appropriate time for those two witnesses to be called, so that time may be given for summoning Wieland here and letting the prison authorities know about Westhoff.

DR. NELTE: We spoke about that and have agreed that the witnesses be called during my presentation.

I just understand from Sir David that we are all agreed that the documents be presented after the case against the Organisations.


COLONEL SMIRNOV: May I continue with my questioning, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT: Continue, yes.


Q. I have one last question to put to you, Witness. Tell me, when you left the city to go into the country to inspect the churches, did you sometimes witness instances of mockery of religion and desecration of churches?

A. Yes, I did.

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